Perinatal Depression Affects Development of Infants

Over 400,000 infants are born each year to mothers suffering from perinatal depression. The most undiagnosed obstetric complication in the U.S., perinatal depression typically affects mothers during pregnancy or within the first year following childbirth.

Types of Perinatal Depression

At least half of new mothers develop what is known as the “baby blues.” This type of perinatal depression involves crying, anxiety and mood swings and lasts no longer than a few days following childbirth.

Affecting between 13 to 20 percent of mothers, postpartum depression can have an impact on mothers that lasts well over one year. This type of depression affects a mother’s ability to properly care for her child as well as her capability to perform simple daily tasks. In addition to having thoughts of harming herself or her child, women affected with this depressive disorder might also feel inadequate, shameful and withdrawn from friends and family.

How Postpartum Affects the Child

A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found infants residing in environments where depression was present are more likely to have impairments in their social interactions and cognitive development. If the mother’s depression remains untreated, it is less likely a strong relationship bond will develop between mother and child.

Treatment is Key

In order to reduce the impacts of postpartum on an infant, the mother must seek treatment. Methods of treatment commonly include counseling and medication. Within roughly four months of being diagnosed and treated, mothers will begin to recover from postpartum treatment.

Recognizing the Problem

Primary care providers should screen new mothers for postpartum depression and provide the appropriate resources if symptoms are found.

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